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Weekend in Ojai – Denali & Dogs with GMC

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Disclosure: I was an invited guest to GMC’s Denali & Dogs event. All my travel, accommodations and food were covered by GMC. As always, all opinions are my own.

I recently returned from a beautiful 2-day trip to Ojai, California and I can tell you it’s an amazing weekend spot! The first time GMC invited me to their Denali & Dogs event, I turned them down. It’s not that I don’t love either Denali or dogs, because I do, it’s just that I don’t actually have a dog. Then my friend Cacinda of Points & Travel said she was going to travel to Ojai for the event but wasn’t bringing her dog and would I consider going dogless as well? Then GMC asked again and I said, let’s do this!

Andi in GMC Denali Terrain
Photo credit: Lore Photography

I was really curious about Ojai and when I saw the event was taking place at the Caravan Outpost I was thrilled at the opportunity to do some RV camping again. Our 18 months living on the road in our own RV had gotten me hooked and I love the Airstream brand so couldn’t wait to spend a few nights inside one.

Cacinda and I landed at LAX and hopped into our GMC Denali Terrain, a beautiful luxury SUV. If Mr. Misadventures and I weren’t already planning to get a truck and needed a second car, the Terrain would be our choice. I kept remarking to Cacinda (to the point I’m sure she wanted to tell me to shut up!) how much I loved driving the car. LA traffic? Who cares? (There wasn’t much, really.) Driving was as smooth as glass, we glided through the canyons and were a little disappointed when our ride was over!

Andi and Cacinda in GMC Denali Terrain
Photo credit: Lore Photography

We met at the Caravan Outpost in the late afternoon, bloggers, writers and dog owners from Seattle (go Poulsbo!), Colorado, Brooklyn, Laguna Beach, LA and of course Phoenix. After settling into our Airstream “Diego,” we all gathered for a seafood boil dinner at farm tables set up in the middle of the common space. One thing about the desert that I love, dining with friends in the evening! And I can not think of a better locale nor better people to break bread with than Caravan Outpost, the GMC family and my new canine friends: Daisy, Charlie, Bobbi, Leo, Ford, and Oliver.

Bobbi in front of the Caravan Outpost Ojai. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

Dog Yoga, Dog Vehicle Safety & Dog Beaches, oh my!

The next morning we fueled up with a healthy breakfast and got prepared for dog yoga. Unlike goat yoga where they climb all over you, dog yoga involved doing regular yoga with time for pets and kisses in between. Our instructor Ellen Bain of Peak Power Yoga & Wellness, even came with her own 13-week old French bulldog puppy who stole our hearts.

Teddy_GMC Denali and Dogs
Teddy Roosevelt!

I had never done yoga before and was surprised how much I liked it. The dogs definitely made it a treat! If you are in Ojai, drop in for a class for Ellen, her “a pose for every body” philosophy is really encouraging!

Andi doing Yoga_GMC Denali and Dogs
Me after yoga…all smiles

From dog yoga to dog safety. The amazing Samantha Johnson of Pack Life LA (you must follow her on Instagram!) walked us through how to ensure our canine friends are safe inside our vehicles. One important tip I learned was about restraining your dog while driving instead of letting him or her wander where they want. It is kind of like crating inside the home, giving them a space where they feel safe will ensure that they are happier. Samantha had a ton of great tips and tricks and she ought to know her personal story is incredible.

Samantha and Daisy (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

Now that we had been “trained” on the do’s and don’t’s of car travel with a dog, we headed to the beach! A dog beach! We hopped in our vehicles and drove a short (and beautiful) 45-minute drive to Summerland Beach. The dogs had a blast running up and down the beach and in the water while the humans enjoyed the perfect 75-degree weather. You know what the best part of the few days with the dogs was? I could play with the dogs as much as I wanted but didn’t have to worry about feeding them, picking up poo, or giving them a bath after the beach! All love, no work!

The dogs at Summerland Beach. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

We took the wet and sandy dogs back to the cars. Or…everyone else but Cacinda and I did, we just took our sandy blankets!

Dogs leaving Summerland Beach
Dogs leaving Summerland Beach. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

Every time we turned around Bobbi and Leo were playing it up for the Insta! These 2 really are really quite adorable! Bobbi was rescued from the streets of the Bahamas and couldn’t get enough of the ocean, Leo had a little more trepidation, but got in the water nonetheless.

Bobbi and Leo in the back of the Denali. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

On the way back to Caravan Outpost, we took a little drive up Highway 1 as the sun was setting. This is why people love California!

Drivers on Highway 1. Cacinda and I are in the Denali Terrain, the 2nd vehicle. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

We finished our day with one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Chef Clark Staub of Full of Life Foods works a 300-mile radius of farmers and food procurers for his amazing farm-to-table meals. The entire meal was a standout, but my favorite dishes were a beef salad with slices of grass-fed beef that absolutely melted in your mouth; an abalone salad and a grilled Santa Barbara fish (caught the day before) with fresh uni (harvested that morning) on top. I was in total and absolute heaven. Both nights our food was accompanied by Land of Saints wine from Santa Barbara County, a new discovery that I really enjoyed.

I woke up happy.

Ojai made me love California again. After 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I broke up with California and moved to Phoenix. But everything about Ojai, including the Caravan Outpost, the restauranteurs and chefs and the local food bounty, reminded me of why so many people have that California dream. So with enough time and a few days in Ojai, my relationship with California is on the mend.

Andi in Airstream
Photo credit: Lore Photography

It’s because of people like Chef Staub and people like Jennifer Weir, the owner of Beacon Coffee. After spending some quiet time catching up on email and social media, Cacinda and I rolled out of our Airstream, Diego and over to breakfast. I was intent on coffee but as we turned the corner and saw the pastries that Jennifer had laid out, I knew I was done for! (Oh well, back to low carb when I get home!) It only took 5 minutes of listening to Jennifer describe her coffee and pastries to know that she and her husband are passionate about every detail of every ingredient that goes into their offerings.

One of which is my new food soul mate, the butter mochi.

Beacon Coffee Butter Mochi_GMC Denali and Dogs
Butter mochi from Beacon Coffee.

For all my trips to Hawaii, I’ve never eaten it before, and have I been missing out. It’s a local treat made with coconut milk and mochiko. Trust me when I say it took all my strength not to eat a second one!

GMC Denali Terrain Features

Andi and Cacinda in GMC Denali Terrain
Photo credit: Lore Photography

After breakfast, we said goodbye to our friends, canine and human alike and headed back to LAX in our GMC Denali Terrain. Because of the Woolsey Fire, we had to circumnavigate the freeways that were shut down. We went through a lot more suburban areas with lots of school zones it was really cool to get an alert that notified us when we’re entering a 25 mph zone. I also liked the Rear Seat Reminder. It gets so incredibly hot in Phoenix that leaving anything living, or heck even groceries in the car for more than a minute can be dangerous. The Terrain, along with the Acadia, Yukon, Canyon, and Sierra will sound five audible chimes and display a visual message that reminds the driver to take a look at the rear seat before departing.

Besides the incredibly smooth effort-free driving, the last thing I loved about the Terrain (besides its roominess!) was the vibrations on the lower part of the driver’s seat that pulsed whenever I was approaching an object or an object was approaching me. By using my rearview mirror, the camera, and the vibrational guides, I feel like it is nearly impossible to back into something! That’s not a safety promise, just the observation of someone who is prone to misadventures!

Denali detail. (Photo by Casey Rodgers for GMC)

I know for many people a car is just a tool, a utility from getting from point A to point B, but for me, it is so much more than that. It’s a place to laugh, to cry, to argue, to explore, to adventure and to be happy. GMC are people who know how to create exceptional experiences because their product is all about the experience and once again they came through with Denali & Dogs!

The Bonus

I can’t share the story of these 2 days without mentioning one person. I got to meet someone who I have been a fan of for a decade. As I sat by the fire pit on the first night, I kept looking across at a beautiful blonde thinking, “man she looks familiar!” As a group, we were waiting for the remaining bloggers/media to arrive, so formal introductions hadn’t been made. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I introduced myself. Turns out it was Jenny Ingram of Jenny on the Spot, someone I have truly adored for a decade!

I really enjoyed getting to meet her and her husband Paul. Paul coaches high school football and was likely going to run into my alma mater, Steilacoom High School in the Washington state championships. They could not have been more down to earth and funny (that I already knew) and I have to thank GMC for inviting her to the event, I just wish we had gotten to spend more time together or even get a photo together! The best I got was Bobbi visiting Jenny during yoga!

Jenny Ingram with Bobbi

The Other Thank Yous

Thank you to Cacinda for getting me to come to the event! Thanks to Shelby Barone of OC Mom Blog who I met at a blogging conference many moons ago who was still as lovely as ever! Thanks to Becca Blonde and her adorable rescue dog Bobbi, one of the friendliest dogs I’ve ever met, dedicated to her craft of service and Instagram posing. And to Brandon Schultz (of Outdoor Magazine and more), who brought Leo, the most adorable basket case of a dog (also a rescue). Leo is totally lovable and will one day return that love. It was a pleasure to meet all of you – thanks for making it a great event and once again, thanks to GMC for putting together really great people! (GMC companies are really good at doing that!)

Weekend in Ojai

A Weekend in Ojai California

I highly recommend a visit to Ojai. It is a 90-minute drive from LAX; an hour and 20-minutes from the Burbank airport and 45-minutes from Santa Barbara. If you are going for a 2-day or 3-day stay or a weekend in Ojai, here’s what I suggest as an itinerary:

Ojai Hotels

In terms of Ojai hotels, grab an Airstream at the Caravan Outpost. If you don’t stay there, definitely still stop by and shop in their store otherwise you’re going to miss some cool finds. Located at 317 Bryant St.

Andi Shopping Inside Outpost Caravan
Shopping in the Caravan Outpost store. Photo credit: Lore Photography

Otherwise, there is the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn, an award-winning luxury resort with all the amenities just outside the Los Padres National Forest. Located at 905 Country Club Rd.

Ojai Restaurants

Ojai Restaurants The Nest and Azu

Get the most delectable sweet or savory pastries and ethically sourced coffee at Beacon Coffee. I’m considering a move to Ojai just for their butter mocha alone. Go every morning as there are too many pastries to choose from! Located at 211 W Ojai Ave.

Lunch and Dinner:
Check out The Nest. They have a delicious poke bowl. Located at 401 E Ojai Ave.

Dine at the intimate Azu and be blown away by their Mediterranean menu. I did lunch and had some of the best olives I’ve ever tasted along with braised short ribs. I have to go back for their Portuguese Chicken Soup! Located at 457 E Ojai Ave.

Don’t miss amazing flatbreads and regional farm-to-table dishes from Full of Life Foods or just grab some of their bread for your own sandwiches. Located at 225 Bell St. in Los Alamos.

Other recommended spots: Ca’ Marco Ristorante Italiano (1002 E Ojai Ave); Osteria Monte Grappa (242 E Ojai Ave); and Agave Maria’s Restaurant & Cantina (106 S Montgomery St).

Things to do in Ojai

Yoga in Ojai California

Drop in on Ellen Bain and her team at Peak Power Yoga & Wellness for a yoga class.

Visit Ojai Olive Oil (1811 Ladera Rd) to learn more about the 150-year-old heritage olive trees. You can learn how extra virgin olive oil is created, pick up some tips and tricks on cooking with olive oil and of course do some tasting!

Do some wine tasting at the Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room (109 S Montgomery St); Casa Barranca Organic Winery & Tasting Room (208 E Ojai Ave); or find some of your own wines (picnic, anyone?) at The Ojai Beverage Co. (655 E Ojai Ave).

If you want to see the ocean while visiting Ojai, check out Summerland Beach (park at 2297 Finney St, Summerland) and continue down the famous Highway 1 and enjoy the scenery, it makes for a lovely drive!

That’s a wrap! Thanks again to GMC for the event invite and travel accommodations, thanks to our hosts at Caravan Outpost and all the people that came and spent time with us and fed us! I fell head over heels in love with Ojai and enjoyed learning more about the GMC Denali features and driving the Denali Terrain.

How about you? Do you have a dog that you travel with? Does he or she hop in the car and seek adventure? Have you been to Ojai, California? What do you think of the GMC Denali line-up? Do share!

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Currently November 2018
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